Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Copy Cat? NOT!!!!

There is a LOT to be learned from copying master works of art, and  I make copies fairly regularly.  Some times I copy because I can't think of what to paint or draw next but I need to keep working.  Sometimes I copy because I want to understand a particular form of construction.  Sometimes it's just to think in another way.  But EVERYTIME I make a copy, I learn something.  And the most common thing I learn from copying a master work of art is how perfectly the work is designed.  

If you look at this drawing I did after Rubens' drawing of his son Nicholas, Rubens directs our eyes by creating concentric and spiralling arcs.  Beginning from the outside of the brim of the left side of the hat, our eye moves down through the chin, up and around the jaw to the back of the hat where it wraps around and then comes down to the left side of the face.  And then notice what happens.....the shadow of the chin begins the eye movement around the inside of the face to the upward looking eyes where they point you to the hat again, and the process repeats.  If you expand the view, the eyes movement can begin on the cowl of the boy's shirt starting on the right and moving toward the left of the drawing and then sweeps up to the face at the chin moving you up and you beging the circular journey again.  And while I did no justice to the way Rubens drew the hair, the same idea is found there as well.

But in addition to this repetition of movement, Rubens also gives a solid foundation and grounds our view by introducing one of the most stable forms in design, the triangle.  If you abstract the shape of the head, there is a strong triangle shape.  The same is true of the hat, and again the same is true in the cowl itself where there are two major triangles:  One on the inside of the cowl fabric where the triangle faces the boy, and one on the outside, or where the fabric faces the viewer.  Even the negative shapes are triangular anchoring the circular viewing of our eyes.  This not only gives stability, but slows our eye movement and allows us to slow down and rest.

Each time you copying from a master work, try to notice what it's teaching you.  It's a pretty sweet lesson.

Friday, February 1, 2013

When is a Plane not Plain?

In this second study using Arthur Stern's book, "How to See Color and Paint It",   I went to project 4 'How Plain is a Plane'.  This is the set up.

In the set up box are the following construction papers:  Red, Yellow, and Blue.  The lamp is facing more of the top of the box than below.

The colors I used to paint with are: Winton White, Winton Cad Yellow Pale, Cad Red Light, Winton Permanent Alizarin Crimson, and Winton Ultramarine Blue.  Because I'm using a palette knife, using a lot of paint, and these are studies I'm using for my own set of studies (and I had some in my drawer) I chose to use mostly Winton paints.  Here is my thought on using student grade paint.  As far as I can tell, and from the small amount of research I've done, student grade paint does use, for the most part but not always, the same paint that is used in professional grade paint.  But a lot less of the pure material is used and much more fillers are added, such as oil.  Therefore, tinting strength is much, much lower.  This goes for Winton Titanium White as well.   I pretty much stay with professional grades of paint, and I might add a bit of Winton if, for example Ultramarine Blue, is a bit dry instead of oil to get it to the right consistency.  I am essentially adding a colored oil to a professional grade paint.  Second, student  grade paint is definitely not as luminous.  Third, student grade does not always use pure materials.  If you see the word 'hue' added after the color name, it is NOT a pure color but a combination of colors to get close to the color that is on the label.  This will act differently than a purer color when you go to mix it.  So my thought is that whatever you decide to use, know it's pros and cons.  In these studies I'm using a combination of both student grade and professional grade paints.

Now that that is explained, look at the photo above and you will see like all things, one color is affecting another.  Notice how much red is reflecting on to the blue and how much blue is reflecting on to the yellow.  Also see some of the yellow reflecting back on the red?  Let's analyze what's going on and what colors to choose to paint with.

In the first go around I painted as close to the general color and tone/value that I saw and didn't worry about the reflected colors.  For the red wall I mixed a bit of cad red light and alizarin and white.  I need to remember that there is cad red light in this mixture.  Which I will explain below.

In this second pass I'm painting some of the reflected colors I see.  Beginning with the blue, initially I added some of the red tint I had made for the first pass.  The trouble was that in the red mix I had added some cad red light.  Cad red light is toward the orange meaning that there is yellow in it.  So what will happen when I add this to a cooler blue such as ultramarine?  Because of what we know of color theory, the purple is going to be on the grey side.  It was not what I wanted or saw.  So I re-mixed only alizarin to the correct tone by adding white, meaning I mixed it to the same value as the blue, and then added it to the blue.  Ultramarine blue has a cool red in it so adding a cool red like alizarin keeps both colors cleaner, therefore the color was purer and closer to what I was seeing.   For the yellow wall closer to the red side, all three colors (red, blue and yellow) are involved so it will be predominately yellow, but because of the red and blue, a bit duller at the bottom.  Why?  Remember when all 3 primaries are mixed together it will result in a form of grey or dull tone.  Toward the top of the yellow wall where it meets the red it will be warmer as it moves closer toward the red on the color wheel.   On the far left at the base of the yellow wall, there is much less influence of red and the blue is going to dominate in its reflection and make it slightly green.  On the red wall you can see what blue is doing to the bottom of the wall and making it more purplish while higher up on the wall the yellow takes over its reflection and makes the color a bit warmer and richer.

I hope you are enjoying these as much a I enjoy doing them and then writing about it.  If you find this helpful please feel free to pass this on to others and subscribe.  You can see more of my work at www.etuckerart.com

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Color Play

    I'm very interested in color, color theory, and how it affects objects so I thought it would be interesting to write about a series of painted studies I'm planning to do using the book,  "How to See Color and Paint It" by Arthur Stern.  It's an out of print book, but it can be found and is a gem.
     Let's start with color basics -- that is primaries, secondaries, and tertiary colors.  There are 3 and only 3 primary colors: Red, Blue, and Yellow.  These are colors that CANNOT be mixed from any other color.  But the great thing about the primaries is that they can make all the other colors.  When two primaries are mixed together they are called secondaries:  Red and Yellow = Orange;  Yellow and Blue = Green;  Red and Blue = Purple.  A tertiary color is one that is, for example, more on the red or yellow side of orange, or more on the blue or yellow side of green, or more on the blue or red side of purple.  Remember those wonderful Crayola crayons?  Some were called 'blue green'.  That is one tertiary color.  As you can see, all the colors are variations of these six – red, yellow, blue, orange, green and purple.  

     Complimentary or opposite colors are opposite each other on the color wheel and are used to dull a color down.    For example, to dull down red, add some green.  To dull down blue, add some orange, etc…. These colors are opposite of each other on the color wheel.  An easy way to remember what the complementary color is to any of these basic 6 colors is to remember how the color is made in the first place and then add the  third color that is missing from the triad.  For example, to find the opposite of purple ask yourself how do you make purple?  Red + Blue.  What’s missing?  Yellow!  Hence, yellow is the opposite of purple.  What is the opposite of Blue?  What colors are missing in the triad?  Red and Yellow.  Red and Yellow make orange.  Hence, Orange is the opposite of Blue.   Eventually the color gets so dull it will be a neutral color and will be in the middle of the wheel.  In other words, it will be grey.
     OK.....now that we are all on the same page let's look at what Stern starts with as a simple set up and see and compare the results.

 This is a basic white cylinder set on a sheet of green construction paper with a black background.  The light is a regular warm light bulb and is facing the back wall of the set-up box.  It is a bit difficult to see in the photo, but the bulb has a definite impact on the black background.  Before we continue, understand that black acts in a similar manner to blue.  Therefore, a yellow/warm bulb, is going to make the black appear in the green range.  You can test this by taking black paint and adding some yellow to it.  You will see that as you add more yellow the black becomes more green.
In the painting, the black background is a seems to be more of a dull green, the construction paper is a bright green and the white has a warm cast on the flat surface of the top and a dull or grayish version of green on the cylinder.  Now, let's analyze why.  You can easily understand the why the back and foreground are in the green ranges. With the warm/yellow light of the lamp, the green paper is going to be even greener because we are essentially adding more yellow to the color.  The top of the tissue is going to be a warmer color, but the sides are going to be a bit duller and cooler because white paint is a cool color by nature.  Still, the roll is in the green family.

Look what happens when we change the ground color from green to red.

     I hope you are finding this as interesting as I am.  As I paint more of these exercises I will post the results and try to explain why things are happening as they are.  I always welcome your thoughts and comments.

Friday, December 28, 2012

I Call it Possum, You Call it Opossum

I love it when my friends think of me in their travels.  I don't want the usual gifts.....scarfs, postcards, magnets.....  No, bring me something different and really unique to the area.  So I am completely grateful for my world traveler friend who brought back an Australian Possum skull and then lent it to me to draw.  What is the difference between a Possum and an Opossum?  Well, here in the USA we call the marsupial an opossum.  But Down Under they are called Possums, or if you want to be really accurate,  Phalangeridae.   But really, the two are not the same.  Scientifically the American O/possum is called Didelphimorphia.  They also do not look the same.  The Phalangeridae (Australian) has more forward pointing teeth like a squirrel, while the Didelphimorphia (American) is more bat-like in its dentition.  

  Australian Possum          American Possum  
 When I first started to draw this small skull (it's only about 3.5" in length) I was really interested in its teeth and how they articulated and wanted to draw this in profile.  I was also interested in the way the hinge of the lower jaw seemed to sit in the region of the eye socket.  This is so unlike other skulls that I'm familiar with.  To make sure that what I was seeing was infact correct, I called my local Natural History Museum and spoke with the scientist there.  He told me that while it looks like the hinge (think TMJ - Temporomandibular Joint) sits in the region of the eyeball, it actually sits outside that area.  But that drawing didn't turn out very well and ended up in the trash.  That was actually one of the challenges of working with such a small skull and worrying about its fragility.  Tendons break down the lower and upper jaw seperate so it kept falling over and I didn't want to fuss too much with it.   Too much information????  Well I won't add more, but for me, very interesting. 
So instead, I set the skull up as if you were looking at the Aussie Possum from about this angle
I break the drawing down in to 3 distinct stages.  Working in charcoal and white pastel on a fawnish color Mi-Tientes paper, Stage 1 is the basic outline of the form itself and noting the light and dark regions.  The paper is the middle tone.
Stage 2 is more developed.  I'm also going to continue to make corrections --and will continue to throughout the whole process.
And finally, stage 3 is the finished drawing
Hope you like it!
To see more of my work please go to www.etuckerart.com

Monday, December 3, 2012

Long Term Investments

(This is a reprint from my blog at http://etuckerart.com/blog

I read a great article in the NY Times a few months ago about the Herman Miller Aeron Chair and design for the long term.  There was this great little section that I'm going to quote.  "If you ask John Berry what the biggest obstacle is to innovation and creativity in the design of furniture, he would have to say, "It's the stock market. The drive on quarterly earnings causes companies to be very uncomfortable investing for long-term benefit. And good design should have a long-term view." .... The bankers boxes full of ideas that didn't get made in the Herman Miller archive are living examples of furniture and objects and tools that never happened".  The emphasis is mine.  It was those three sentences (and a Tarot card reader that I met at a dinner party just a few nights later who told me to take more risk) that really got me thinking about creativity and what stops and starts us.  
Often it is the case that we get known for a particular style of work and our clients and patrons expect us to continue along that path.  That is the "voice" they expect to see.  And as an artist, it's pretty nice when we have a good body of work that sells regularly to repeat and new collectors.  But that very stability can make us afraid to break out and try other ideas.  It's that short term "quarterly earnings" that can end up controlling how and what we put out.  And I understand this very well as I come from a family that is fully invested in the market and banking.  Quarterly earnings keep things moving along.  So it can be very frightening to introduce new works that aren't part of our known repetoire.  It feels like starting all over again.   In fact, it is actually a bit of starting over again.  What if our base doesn't like or appreciate what we are doing?  What if they think we've abandoned them by trying something new.  They might feel like their purchases are not quite as valid.  Is that worth the risk to us???  To them???  And even though I tend to be rather risk adverse, I think it is.
As artists, we are inherently creators and inventors.  We try new materials.  We try them in different combinations.  We are naturally curious.  I think that staying with the same type of work and never trying something new because of the fear that those quarterly earnings won't be as consistent can be a little bit like slowly dying.  
I want to be known not only for beautiful work, but work that has integrity.  By that I mean I want my collectors and future collectors to know that what I undertake is done with thought and understanding of the materials I use.  That they will last.  That I'm not resting on my laurels.  I won't abandon what I do because I love painting what I paint, but I also want the freedom to explore new ideas and materials and see what those efforts produce.  So, between the article on the Aeron chair and interaction with the Tarot card reader, I'm gingerly stepping out.  I realized it doesn't have to be a total revamping, but maybe a new tact.  I hope people will like what I'm creating, but if they don't, I will be that much more informed.  I'm excited to see what happens.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


In classical art, abstraction is the structural foundation of the work.  You might not notice it, but if you were to make a pattern of just the three average tones - light, middle and dark, you would see a more abstract version of the work.

Poster Studies are similar except that instead of just doing them in three general tones, I flatten the subject and paint the color and correct tones.  I find them very evocative.

More of these can be found at www.etuckerart.com  and available for sale at http://etucker.art.artistwebsites.com/

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Mushrooms Galore

I've just posted a bunch of mushroom paintings for sale.  Mushrooms are great....I used to collect them with my Dad and then make mushroom spore prints to help identify what they were.  Much more interesting and safer than just tasting and hoping for the best!  Ink Caps, one of my favorites, is found in many gardens and woodland settings.  They are really tasty in the young stage but not so much as they get old.  I'm told, also by my Dad, that the "ink" from these old mushrooms can be used to write and draw with, but that it won't last long and the "ink" is fugitive.  I will have to test it and get back to you.